daily californian logo


How to not panic when it gets dark on a hike

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

MARCH 01, 2023

Hiking is all fun and games: frolicking in fields and wandering in the woods. Then, the lights go out. By the glow of the moon, a joyous jaunt can transform into a hair-raising, terror-stricken tumble into your worst nightmare. In the dark, everything can seem much more sinister and menacing — a change in lighting turning your own mind against you. 

It’s every anxious hiker’s worst nightmare. You step out of your comfort zone by trying a new trail, only for the hike to take longer than expected and for nightfall to sneak up on you. And BAM! You’re all alone! In the middle of nowhere. Only you, your sparsely packed rucksack and your frazzled wits to get you out. 

It’s easy to panic, getting caught up in all the horrible things that could be hiding behind the next bend, all the unknowns encircling you. But relax! There’s no need to worry! You’re just alone in nature. What could go wrong? 

However, if for some reason you’re still (irrationally) concerned, here are some things to calm your nerves as you track down a way back to the trailhead. 

Don’t second-guess your trail markers.

Everything looks different in the dark. Branches become crawling tendrils sneaking up on you, writhing under your feet, conspiring to trip you up. Have you seen that tree before? Or have you seen it too many times? Are you hopelessly lost? Going in circles and playing a twisted game of Ring Around The Redwoods until you despair with dizziness? Who knows? Probably not. Just keep walking. 

Don’t think about what’s in the bushes.

All those cricks and crackles, rustles and tussles — probably just the wind. Not a rabid animal waiting to pounce or some serial killer lurking in the shadows poised to drag you away to their murderous cabin. What do you think is going to happen? You’ll have to fight for your life against the actual cannibal Shia LaBeouf? Nature just makes weird sounds. Don’t overanalyze it. 

Don’t think about all those people that go missing in national parks each year.

It’s definitely fake news that supposedly thousands of people go missing from national parks each year. If that was true, there would be no one going to national parks anymore … right? Except for maybe fools like you? But still, what happens to those unfortunate souls that do go missing? What stopped them in their tracks? Animals? Bigfoot? Aliens? Creepies? Crawlies? Mountain lions? Tigers? Bears? Oh my.

Don’t think of the worst-case scenario. 

Look, you’re definitely going to be able to find your car. Or the road. Or someone. Or something, eventually. But if not, you probably packed enough in your light bag for the night! You could always eat the raisins left in your trail mix or sip some water from a stream. Anyway, we live in California, it’s not like you’re gonna get hypothermia. But still, did you know that during the last stage of hypothermia, you strip off all your clothes? What if you get so disoriented, so cold in your inadequate, skimpy clothes, you disrobe and rescuers find you in your birthday suit? What if they never find you?

Walk faster. Don’t look behind you.

Stop worrying, just focus on the trail in front of you and finding your way back. Looking over your shoulder will just slow you down! That eerie feeling of being in front of something or someone watching you is completely irrational. 

With your ears deafened by the loud thump of your beating heart, your brain can overpower all rationale with a sea of horrible thoughts. And just when you start bargaining with whatever God is out there, regretting not having said “I love you, mom’’ last time you saw her, hoping the newspapers pick a nice photo of you for the ‘Lost Hiker’ article, feeling like your legs are lead and wanting to sit down and sob — there, in the distance, you see the trailhead!

Safety at last! See, there was nothing to worry about! You can rest easy, knowing you found your way out of that and it will never happen again! (Probably). 

This is a satirical article written purely for entertainment purposes.

Contact Elise Cline at 


MARCH 01, 2023